Heart Pharmacy 

Utahn prescribes sticky pop ballads

click to enlarge Heart Pharmacy's Ali Sarijlou
  • Heart Pharmacy's Ali Sarijlou

Producing a set of songs used to require the skills of real people, like drummers, bassists, guitarists and vocalists. Today, thanks to ever-evolving technological advancements, all that’s needed is a laptop and some software. With just a few clicks on the mouse, the sound of a full band is achieved.

It’s a music revolution that’s rapidly giving rise to solo artists like Owl City, Baths and Secondhand Serenade. Ali Sarijlou, a Utah son and one-man musical machine, is also trying to make his mark within the field.

Sarijlou is the heart and brain behind Heart Pharmacy. The name was partially inspired by his sister, who put herself through pharmacy school. The heart half of the moniker symbolizes the creative power behind his ambient, indie acoustic melodies. “Every song I write comes directly from the heart. I consider myself to be a bit on the abstract side of art,” Sarijlou says.

To achieve that in a live setting, Sarijlou uses various pedals to loop and layer guitar tracks, and he recently incorporated a Native Instruments Maschine—drum technology that allows him to assign sounds to pads to create a full, live production. “The Maschine is usually a favorite among hip-hop artists, but as soon as it was in my hands, it gave me a completely new vision,” Sarijlou says.

Although Sarijlou recently moved to California, he grew up in Utah, which is where his musical roots took hold. He found his calling in middle school when he diverged from the Top 40 pop of that day. Albums like Jimmy Eat World’s Static Prevails, Elliott Smith’s Either/Or and pop-punk staple Blink-182’s Dude Ranch were the most influential.

“I liked the sound of live instruments, which sounded so new and original, much more than virtual instruments or samples. The lyrics had more meaning, heart and soul,” Sarijlou says.

After graduating from Brighton High School, he started his first band, One Quart Low. Sarijlou was involved in many different music groups—with varying levels of success—including, most notably, IPX, which had a successful, but short, run. They released an EP, Stay Tuned, in 2004, and even won an X96-sponsored contest to open for The Used the same year. Although the band broke up because some members’ work visas expired, Sarijlou attributes his move to a solo career to what he learned while playing with IPX.

Sarijlou started Heart Pharmacy seven years ago, when he decided to prescribe a new musical direction for himself after IPX disbanded. Since then, in addition to touring, he has released one album, Natural Selection, and is recording his second album, Drive, at Signature Sound Studio in San Diego, with sound engineers Ben Moore and Christian Cummings.

Sarijlou says he is sticking to his roots—sticky guitar and vocals—while adding new dimensions to his sound. Cummings is witnessing progress with Sarijlou’s musical experimentation in the studio. “Although [Drive is] similar to his previous [album], he’s starting to experiment more with noises, programming and loops,” Cummings says. “We’re using much of the pre-recorded stuff he’s done on his own. He’s in the captain’s chair, but open to ideas and changes.”

Drive is tentatively set for release in early spring 2012. In the meantime, Heart Pharmacy is planning a spring 2012 tour with a Utah stop in mind. Before then, Sarijlou plans on heading home this winter.

Sarijlou hopes to break into the Sundance Film Festival scene this year with a paid gig. Demonstrating his passionate drive, Sarijlou avowed, “If you don’t find me [at a gig], you will most likely find me on the sidewalk with my busking amp.”

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